The term “mental health” has been explained in different contexts. One of the earlier versions of the term indicated good mental health to be synonymous with the absence of any mental disorder. While this was a restricted term in itself, several debates have ensued on whether the
term should be extended to accommodate other psycho-socio aspects.
In 2001, World Health Organization (WHO) came to our rescue and broadened the definition of mental health to, “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her (or their) own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her (or their) community.” Now, the term mental health includes the complete emotional, psychological, and social well-being of an individual.
This complete state of well-being, however, has increasingly been difficult to achieve in recent times. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the already declining state of our mental health conditions. This has had significant health impacts on people of all genders; however, the situation has most importantly thrown light on the bleak situation the country’s women find themselves in.
According to a survey conducted in 2005 on Chronic fatigue in developing countries, 12.1% of women in India had complained of chronic fatigue. While in the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (NIMHANS),
Bengaluru, a specific pattern was observed for the distribution of various mental morbidities among males and females. The prevalence rates were reported to be higher in males for substance use disorders (F10-F19) and psychotic disorders (F20-F29) whereas in the case of females, with the exception of BPAD, the prevalence rates for mood disorders (F30-F39) and neurotic stress related disorders(F40-F48) were found to be significantly higher.
Women (especially the ones living in rural areas) experience high expectations from their families to look after even their basic day-to-day needs, face pressure from all fronts (particularly in case of working women), often suffer because of the existing gender stereotypes and gender roles, face hostility for questioning the “status-quo”, have no or little facility for dialogue or discussion surrounding health and an absence of qualified and approachable therapists and counsellors. This has made it increasingly difficult for them to ask for and seek help.
Moreover, women’s mental health has largely been stigmatized in our society, with label such as “psycho” or “hysterical” being attached to them for expressing emotions like anger and sadness. In a social context such as this, there are multitude of factors at play that contribute to further stigmatization. It, therefore, becomes very difficult for them to get the necessary help, or even disclose their inner turmoil to even their loved ones, thus, furthering their distress.
Practicing a healthy balance between their duties and responsibilities and mental health, hence, is imperative, and should be more actively encouraged in our households. To know more about the self-care strategies that you can employ, as women, check out our blog-post on the same: https://yourewonderfulproject.org/self-care-strategies-for-women-during-lockdown/
- Sharma, I. & Pathak, A. (2015). Women Mental Health in India. India Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4539862/
- Malhotra, S. & Shah, R. (2015). Women and mental health in India: An overview. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281517733_Women_and_mental_health_in_India_An_overview
- Watve V, Raju N N. Women Mental Health: Reflections from India. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from: http://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/article.asp?issn=0019-5545;year=2015;volume=57;issue=6;spage=197;epage=198;aulast=Watve;type=3
- Why we Need to Focus on Women’s Mental Health. (November, 2018). Retrieved from: https://feminisminindia.com/2018/11/22/womens-mental-health/
- Geneva: World Health Organization; 2001. World Health Organization. Gender and women'S mental health. Gender disparities and mental health: The Facts. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=GQEdA-VFSIgC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=World+Health+Organization.+Gender+and+women%27s+mental+health.+Gender+disparities+and+mental+health:+The+Facts+2001+Geneva+World+Health+Organization+&ots=d1YH_KedyE&sig=e8SRG4xl6KVmYhGslPX2193zLd0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
- The BMJ. (2005). Retrieved from: https://www.bmj.com/content/330/7501/1190.short
- Gururaj G., et. al., & NMHS collaborators group. National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16: Prevalence, patterns and outcomes. Bengaluru, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, NIMHANS Publication No. 129, 2016. Retrieved from: http://indianmhs.nimhans.ac.in/Docs/Report2.pdf